Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2021

March 2021

Dear Literary Folk,

What a legion of writers we’ve lost in the past year, among them Q.R. Hand, Diane DiPrima, Michael McClure, and most recently, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. On Monday last, driving down the coast, I passed Pacifica’s Rockaway Beach, and found myself quoting from Ferlinghetti’s “A Far Rockaway of the Heart”:

           he followed her into                                 the playland of that evening
                     where the headlong meeting
                                                    of their ephemeral flesh on wheels
                               hurtled them forever together

           And I now in the back seat
                                                     of their eternity
                                                                reaching out to embrace them

The original Rockaway Beach is, of course, in Queens—a  vast, sandy beach and 5.5-mile boardwalk that draws families in summer for swimming, sunbathing. But associative logic leaps over geographic distances in a wink. The next day I learned that Ferlinghetti had died on that very Monday. By  Tuesday, FaceBook was brimming with tributes from those who had known him, loved him, been influenced by him, or simply found a second home in City Lights Bookstore. Among those FaceBook posts was one by Petaluma poet Carol Hoorn. I asked her to expand her post into a short feature, and I’m delighted to be able to share this with you here.

When I asked Carol to suggest a poem by Ferlinghetti to be included as the poem for March, she recommended “Challenges to Young Poets.” Scroll down and you’ll find it there, along with an invitation to young Sonoma County poets to share their original work on the theme of Equity and Compassion.

by Carol Hoorn

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights BookstoreI dropped out of San Jose State and found a job at Fireman’s Fund in 1955. Black stilleto heels, pencil skirts and white blouses were week day choices. Week-ends meant black turtlenecks, leggings, and Capezios , red lipstick, and very black mascara. It was easy to be a weekend beat (spelled lower case then).

I first met Lawrence Ferlinghetti that year. I called him Mr. Ferlinghetti till 1959. By then I had purchased all the banned books featured in City Light’s front window. Ginsburg, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, James Joyce, and others. I met the first two authors and soon many more. I am glancing now at my 1954 edition of Ulysses, published in London, so proudly displayed by the man that I was by then calling Lawrence. Never Larry, as I felt that was meant for close friends.

I attended many readings in the basement of that building. Sometimes music accompanied a poet. I did not always understand what I listened to, but found I would often laugh, cry, tremble in passionate response whether I “got it” or not. I always seem to grasp the meaning of Lawrence’s poems, his deep sonorous voice wrapping round me, sending love, humor, tenderness, righteous anger, sometimes all in the same poem.

When the readings ended, the crowd most often walked across the alley to Vesuvio’s,  where on any given night, a physical fight might occur over a chess game, a shouted argument over existential positions, or who was a true beat or a fake. I fell into this second category, but was always accepted. Even sat in Ken Casey’s bus once, going nowhere in front of City Lights.

Some years ago, I shared with Lawrence my written version of how I desired to spend the last three weeks of my life. He, perhaps half serious, promised to go to Paris with me, as long as I promised not to die on his watch.We would attend the Opera—La Bohème, of course. Dine on seven course dinners, just café in the mornings. Champagne bucket at our bedside where we would spend the afternoons till eventide reading Collette and Maupassant, under silk sheets with lovers and others, depending on our desires.On my final day, we would walk to Père-Lachaise, where I would stay near Oscar Wilde or Edith Piaf (to be decided later).

Carol HoornIn 2017, I had someone copy onto a CD an old reel to reel tape made in 1960 by my late husband of Lawrence reading his poem “Pondering the Insoluble Problem.” Visiting City Lights from my by then home in Petaluma, I found Lawrence putting some new books in the window. I blurted out the first lines of that poem, attempting to imitate him. He burst into laughter, saying he had almost forgotten that one. We tried in vain to find it in his vast collection on the second floor, but could not. I sent the CD as a gift. His thank-you note mentioned that he thought he sounded wonderful, and perhaps would include it in a documentary being made of his life.

I read his poems to my granddaughters and when poets and writers gathered physically. I will repeat them again, when it is safe.

Now that I feel closer to you, in my grief, I will say, “I love you, always and forever, Larry.”

Carol Hoorn


Connie MaddenCarol wasn’t the only Petaluman writing about Ferlinghetti’s passing. Connie Madden also contributed a blog to Petaluma 360, titled “Lawrence Ferlinghetti, alive and well and living in my head. . . .” In the article, she reminisces,  “As a 20 something, I hitchhiked across the Bay maybe 10 times from Berkeley to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, San Francisco, a comb and library card with some money in my little suede wrist bag, a stenopad for poetry, half full, in my hand.  Feeling I might never come back, I’d head out alone to meet my fate, freedom was the word.  A lot like I imagined the life of the beat poets in San Francisco and Paris.  If Berkeley was the philosphical center of the world (it was to me!), surely City Lights was its literary watering hole.”

Here’s the link to read Connie’s piece in its entirety:


By Liz Larew

On Saturday, April 17, Sonoma County United in Kindness will present a poetry reading by Sonoma County teens, age 13-19. The online event will be hosted by Zoya Ahmed, 2020 – 2021 Sonoma County Youth Poet Laureate

United in Kindness hopes to provide a supportive forum and public platform, designed and hosted by and for Sonoma County youth, ages 13–19, to write, present, and have conversation about the topics of equity and compassion, through the art of poetry, with a focus on the practice, experience, meaning of, reflection upon, and/or power of equity and compassion  — on a human scale, in the US, and in their day-to-day lives.  To include the topics of inclusion, tolerance, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality.  To engage youth in a conversation of equity and compassion…through the power of poetry.  In celebration of April — National Poetry month.

This event will include a live open mic, providing an opportunity to read an original poem, or one written by any poet of choice.   Limited to one poem or up to two minutes.  “Family friendly” language poems please.   Closed video will be an option; signed parent/guardian authorization required for ages 13–17.

Topic/Suggested prompts:  What do you want to say about equity and compassion?  What do equity and compassion mean to you?  How have you experienced them in your life?  How do you practice them in your life?  What power do they have in our world?  How do they relate to tolerance, diversity, unity, social justice, kindness, and equality?  Say it through the power of poetry!! 

Please sign up in advance for open mic  deadline Friday, March 26 

Email to sign up.  A practice session will be scheduled prior to the event – date to be announced.
Our March literary events calendar has much to offer. I’ve selected just a few for the spotlight here.Phyllis Meshulam (our Poet Laureate), Donna Emerson, and Jodi Hottel: a triple header of Sonoma County Poets at Rivertown Poets: Join the meeting Monday, March 1, 6:15-8:15 pm at or just show up at Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed.

Fran Claggett-Holland and Linda Loveland Reid will present poetry readings and discussions on Friday, March 5, April 2 and May 7, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Their program is called Power of Poetry, and is an online class available through Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Free or small donation appreciated: 

“Pandemic Perspectives” is a compilation of short plays/films by local talent about life during the pandemic. This will be presented online  by Cloverdale Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 6-Sunday, March 14. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents Online with $15 tickets available at:

Elizabeth Herron reads from recently published Insistent Grace. Sunday, March 21, 4:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts Virtual Book Launch Series: Admission free, but registration required at OCA website ( to receive Zoom link.

Challenges to Young Poets

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Invent a new language anyone can understand.

Climb the Statue of Liberty.

Reach for the unattainable.

Kiss the mirror and write what you see and hear.

Dance with wolves and count the stars,
including the unseen.
Be naive, innocent, non-cynical, as if you had
just landed on earth (as indeed you have, as
indeed we all have), astonished by what you
have fallen upon.

Write living newspapers. Be a reporter
from outer space, filing dispatches to some
supreme managing editor who believes in full
disclosure and has a low tolerance level for hot air.

Write an endless poem about your life on
earth or elsewhere.

Read between the lines of human discourse.

Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.

Think subjectively, write objectively.

Think long thoughts in short sentences.

Don’t attend poetry workshops, but if you do,
don’t go to learn ‘how to” but to learn
“what” (What’s important to write about).

Don’t bow down to critics who have not
themselves written great masterpieces.

Resist much, obey less.

Secretly liberate any being you see in a cage.

Write short poems in the voice of birds.
Make your lyrics truly lyrical. Birdsong is not
made by machines. Give your poems wings
to fly to the treetops.

The much-quoted dictum from William Carlos
Williams, “No ideas but in things,” is OK for
prose, but it lays a dead hand on lyricism,
since “things” are dead.

Don’t contemplate your navel in poetry and
think the rest of the world is going to think
it’s important.

Remember everything, forget nothing.
Work on a frontier, if you can find one.

Go to sea, or work near water, and paddle
your own boat.

Associate with thinking poets. They’re hard
to find.

Cultivate dissidence and critical thinking.
“First thought, best thought” may not make
for the greatest poetry. First thought may be
worst thought.

What’s on your mind? What do you have
in mind? Open your mouth and stop mumbling.

Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall

Question everything and everyone. Be subversive,
constantly questioning reality and
the status quo.

Be a poet, not a huckster. Don’t cater, don’t
pander, especially not to possible audiences,
readers, editors, or publishers.

Come out of your closet. It’s dark in there.

Raise the blinds, throw open your shuttered
windows, raise the roof, unscrew the locks
from the doors, but don’t throw away the

Be committed to something outside yourself.
Be militant about it. Or ecstatic.

To be a poet at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be
a poet at 40 is to be a poet. Be both.

Wake up and pee, the world’s on fire.

Have a nice day.

          – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Challenges to Young Poets”

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


%d bloggers like this: